MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Merchants are being put on notice to watch out for counterfeit currency—especially $100 bills—as a slew of fake money has infiltrated the area during the busy holiday season.
Last week, a local store fell victim when a man came into Cardsmart and Gifts of Mahopac and passed a bogus C-note.
Terry Fokine, the store’s co-owner, said she was alone at the checkout counter when the man entered the business last Wednesday evening (Nov. 28) at around 5 p.m.
“I had a gut feeling something was wrong,” she said. “I didn’t hear him come in.”
She said the man, who was in his 30s, bought a $9 pair of slipper socks that he said was a gift for his grandmother.
“I thought that was strange,” she said, “a young man buying a present like that for his grandmother.”
He paid for the item with a $100 bill, which at first seemed legitimate because it passed the pen test.
“We have a marker that we use to draw a line on the bill and if it’s fake it will change color,” Fokine said. “This one didn’t.”
But when the man left the store, Fokine held the bill up to the light and could see that the drawing of Ben Franklin was off. She called the police and they came and confiscated the phony bill.
“So, we’re out about $90, plus the merchandise,” she said. “I just want to get this information out to other businesses in town. Be careful. We won’t take $100 bills anymore.”
Fokine described the suspect as of possible Middle Eastern descent, short and skinny, clean-cut, with black hair. She said police are reviewing the store’s surveillance tapes for further clues.
“He was pleasant and polite,” she said, “but when he told me it was a gift for his grandmother, I gift-wrapped it for him, which made him stay in the store longer and that made him a little antsy.”
Neighboring Yorktown merchants have also fallen victim to the passing of counterfeit bills. Yorktown Police Chief Robert Noble advised the town’s Chamber of Commerce to refrain from accepting $100 bills.
“A cunning group of forgers is passing very believable fake currency throughout town,” he said.
Carmel Police Lt. John Dearman confirmed that other businesses throughout Carmel/Mahopac have fallen victim to the scam.
“They’re everywhere,” he said of the fake bills. “It’s the entire tri-county area—Putnam, Dutchess, Westchester.”
Dearman said it’s not just fake $100 bills going around; he’s seen 20s as well.
“It happens during the busy holiday season,” he said. “They come in and they know the cashier is busy and frazzled and won’t pay close attention.”